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Stormy Storms

April 5, 2009

I love thunderstorms. The energy they generate is magical and I remember as a child running around like a lunatic in my yard during summer storms. Feeling the rain pelt against my hot skin, seeing the trees sway with the power of the wind unleashed upon them, hearing my mom caution me above the patter of the rain that I was going to get struck by lightning if I didn’t come inside right away. I love every part of the storm. The calm, humid, stagnant air with the low, rolling, purple black clouds warning everyone to head indoors, the pitter patter of the first drops crescendoing into the waterfall of rain, like God dumping buckets of water down from the Heavens, the electric period of lighting snaking through the milky black of the sky, the slowing of the raindrops hitting the steaming pavement, the departure of the rainstorm to grace another city with its power, and the streets, grass, and me all left stationary in its absence.

Summer storms are some of my most treasured memories. When I was young, my best friend and I would call each other the moment either of us heard a distant rumble and we would spend the entirety of the storm on the phone. Together, yet apart, we would watch the storm glide between us, eagerly demanding if the other had seen the latest strike or heard the latest grumble of thunder.

I’m fascinated by storms and how they work. I was told when I was very little that thunder and lightning were God playing in a rock band with cool light effects and an awesome drummer (which, I suppose would have been God, himself, since he’s theoretically the best of the best). My mom reminds me that as a toddler I would clap my hands and run around the house squealing in a pitch only our family dog could hear and scream with a glint in my eye that “I can hear the thunder but I cannot see the thunder.” I think the origin of my obsession with storms is because I was born on a stormy day. I hear it’s good luck to be born during a storm. I’m not sure of the validity of that statement, but I’d like to think it’s true. I mean I’ve been pretty lucky so far… fingers crossed I didn’t just jinx it.

Maybe I’ll move to Florida, I hear they get good storms. I wonder if South Africa gets hurricanes…

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Defining Everything

February 1, 2009

A definition is, well, by definition, “A statement conveying fundamental character.” Self-definitions are not static—people redefine themselves continuously, molding their personal characterizations by the decisions they make, the values they hold and the priorities they line up. The difficulty in defining something as fundamental as one’s self should not be underestimated. The significance of such a definition is intrinsic. How can someone be expected to define any other word or phrase or concept without first being able to properly define the character of his or her own being.

Self-definition is not an end result; it is not a final destination to be reached after a difficult, tiresome journey of self discovery. Rather, it is sinuous, transient and capricious—the shape shifter of personality. It progresses with new situations that involve personal challenges in different ways, providing more pieces to the puzzle of who we are with every decision and judgment made. Being faced with opportunities to grow and stretch in new ways bears outcomes either reaffirm previous definitions or trigger readjustments. When what we hold true about ourselves is reaffirmed, it strengthens the idea that this is indeed who we are. It is when these notions are challenged that these definitions of who we are shift. Self-definitions are our own personal kaleidoscopes, each change just as beautiful as the last, sharing similar qualities of the mirrored beads but obtaining its own distinction by the change in situation, the rotation of the toy. Just as these simple toys are never fixed, so too are self-definitions.

The major development of self-definitions comes in adolescence and progresses throughout life. For many, the teenage years are their first opportunity to establish how they want to define themselves. This stage of life is often accompanied by rebellion as teenagers decide whether to accept or deny the value systems of their parents. These years are crucial for sculpting the cornerstone of how they define themselves. The broad definition created here is continued to be built upon through the college years into adulthood. The stages people go through in life pinpoint overriding instances of revising self-definitions where general experiences lead to a new way of viewing one’s self and by consequence, a new way of viewing the rest of the world.

Self-definitions are situation-dependent. We define ourselves differently to different audiences. While this is not necessarily done on purpose, certain aspects of who we are become more pronounced to different audiences and thus require the internal questions, “which part of myself do I want to reveal?” “what is appropriate to unveil now?” Those many times throughout life when we are asked to define ourselves in a few moments time are nerve wracking (interviews, “ice beakers,” introductions, etc.). To more professional audiences, aspects of our social lives are not relevant and therefore omitted in the initial “define yourself in 35 seconds” situations, however academic interests and past experiences may be relevant and are thus included. To more social audiences, it might be the reverse, where the music we listen to, our sense of humor, or what we do on weekends might take priority over disclosing our career goals and lifelong aspirations. No matter the audience, the cherry picked selection of facts put forth will likely be the part that everyone remembers, the first impression that may as well have been chiseled into The Statue of David.

Many self-help books and clinics attempt to teach people how to define themselves but this is not something that can be learned, it must be discovered— sculpted from a dull block of marble into a vibrant work of art that has its own spirit. Just as an artist tweaks his masterpiece here and there, so do each of us, altering slightly our definition of who we are and how that impacts what we do. The process of not only learning who you are, but then grasping and accepting this is delicate and should not and can not be rushed. It is through actual experiences and challenges that definitions are developed and only through these can we know who we really are.

Our self-definitions are how we convey our fundamental character. Although the basic definition of who we are does not vary drastically, altercations are made by our decisions, value system and priorities. Once we have a grasp on our own self-definitions, we can then turn to other ideas to define, but until we know who we are, we cannot accurately explain or classify any word, phrase, concept or experience.

Grammar is a Funny Thing

January 5, 2009

i read an article i thought was confusing that could have been a lot easier to understand and it made me wonder why some writing is more difficult to understand than others i think what made the biggest difference was the grammatical structure or lack there of and not so much the topic being written about that made it difficult to read granted there are some topics such as pharmacokinetics or quantum physics that you need a steak knife to dissect the literature its so dense but then there are other topics like modern cultures or recent events that dont need to be so confusing or byzantine sounding but nonetheless some of these articles are made more complicated by the writing style of the author and i thought what better way to find out my own writing style than by removing all structural components of what i am writing now the content of what im saying is the same more or less but the way in which its filtered as you read through your brain and understood is changed by my lack of any sort of punctuation of capitalization cues that tell the brain where to pause and start a new thought i will admit this is a lot harder than i thought not writing with any sort of framework because punctuation and capitalization give the writer a chance to pause and reread and progress in a logical fashion in the writing but by eliminating all breaks between thoughts the writer can easily become entangled in the labyrinth of thoughts floating in the words written above which is happening to me right now all of those really pretentiously artistic people who want to break away from the confines of societys guidelines for written expression to fully express themselves and find they cannot adequately do so conforming to the grammatical and syntactic rules of the english language dont make any sense because unless their minds are as extremely difficult to navigate and their every thought is a complicated mess of fractional concepts i think theyre doing themselves a disservice by rebelling from the norms we as english speaking individuals take for granted in all that we write and read and to which we are accustomed that being said i think the variation we all use and our innate ability to express the same fundamental idea in a multitude of ways gives us each our own individuality that can be recognized and appreciated i am necessarily a logical analytical writer in my style which serves me well in my area of experience the sciences i am not creative in my methodology or my subject matter i dont foresee myself becoming the next jk rowling nor do i find this exceedingly distressing i enjoy writing and i enjoy reading things i can learn from i dont read to escape or for pleasure and i dont find myself a particularly fast reader nor a particularly exceptional writer i merely write what pops into my head and luckily for me that tends to be words that can convey in one sense or another what i am trying to express i dont have a personal need to be a brilliant writer just so long as im an effective writer my writing style has not changed much since i first started writing extensively in high school but it has served me well thus far and i anticipate itll be no different in the future i have now determined the importance of punctuation in written work and i will never overlook a comma semicolon or parentheses again. period.